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UCHS girls deal Patriots tough first loss of season

Erwin Record File Photo      Faith Bennett, shown here driving to the hoop against Happy Valley in December, continues to play an important role with the Lady Devils.


By Trey Williams

After a hard-fought loss at Three Rivers Conference-leading Sullivan East on Friday, Unicoi County girls basketball coach Kerri King said she felt like her Blue Devils were jelling pretty well.

Certainly, that appeared to be the case 24 hours later.

While completing a rare home-and-home on back-to-back days, Unicoi County dealt Sullivan East its first league loss with a 60-57 upset Saturday night in the Devils Den.

Versatile 5-foot-10 senior Caroline Podvin piled up 25 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and two assists for the Blue Devils (4-5, 11-10). And she made 4 of 5 from 3-point range against the seventh-ranked Patriots (5-1, 15-4).

“We needed the win to stay relevant for seeding for the tournament,” King said. “But also to go up against a team that was ranked seventh in AA in the state and had no losses in the conference twice in less than 24 hours and to pull the upset is a credit to our team’s growth in mental stamina and toughness.”

Freshman 5-foot-6 guard Allie Lingerfelt tallied 13 points and four assists, and she made 2 of 3 shots from behind the arc. Lingerfelt had scored 11 points and made three treys on Friday at East.

“Allie has become a lot more comfortable on the floor,” Podvin said, “fitting right in despite being a freshman.”

Another freshman guard, 5-foot-5 Faith Bennett, hit a 3-pointer at the end of third quarter to give the Devils the lead on Saturday.

Laurel Osborne, a 5-foot-9 sophomore post, contributed five points and four rebounds in the victory.

“Laurel Osborne shifted the momentum to us,” Podvin said, “by hitting two free throws and drawing a charge the last few minutes.”

Jocelyn Metcalf also scored five points. Tenley Holt had three of the Blue Devils’ six steals, five rebounds and three assists, and Abigail Rush grabbed four rebounds.

“We had so many contributors and the stat sheet reflects those,” King said. “But the intangibles were things like Jocelyn, Faith and Hannah (Shelton) swapping off on (Jenna) Hare, picking her up full court. While we didn’t dent her scoring, she is the catalyst for their teams’ flow and cohesion.”

Hare, a sophomore, scored 29 points to lead the Patriots, who got 14 points from Hayley Grubb.

Podvin had a couple of blocked shots at Sullivan East on Friday, including an impressive one against tall, talented point guard Riley Nelson.

“Caroline can time blocks pretty well and she can jump,” King said. “She is built for the game.”

Podvin has a chance at 1,000 career points, although it’ll be significantly more difficult due to losing five non-conference games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“She could still; it’ll be close,” King said. “Whether it happens for her or not, her contribution to our team and this program is more than validated.”

A number of Blue Devils players made significant contributions at East.

“Allie played solid, and she’s been playing like that for us,” King said. “I thought she was doing a great job. I thought Jocelyn Metcalf (nine points) gave us some good minutes. And I thought Laurel Osborne did a good job.

“I feel like we’re coming together a little bit. But just one positive (COVID-19) case and you’re right back where you were at. But for the most part, they’ve hit a little stride and they’re jelling pretty good right now.”

Unicoi County was scheduled to host Elizabethton on Tuesday, and will host Johnson County on Friday.